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Latest updates on Sri Lanka crisis: Gotabaya Rajapaksa may return, IMF to visit

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadAug 24, 2022 | 09:59

Latest updates on Sri Lanka crisis: Gotabaya Rajapaksa may return, IMF to visit

Gotabaya Rajapaksa arriving at Bangkok airport on August 11. Photo: AFP

It was only a few weeks ago when the world saw the fury of Sri Lankan citizens against the government. People burned the Prime Minister's house, stormed the Presidential Palace, and ousted the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the crisis in the country. Now, the dust is only settling, but not settled. 

Here are the latest updates from Sri Lanka: 

1. Gotabaya Rajapaksa may return: Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka as a President as protestors stormed the Presidential Palace demanding his resignation. Rajapaksa made it out to the Maldives, then reached Singapore on a medical visa, where he finally resigned and is now staying at a hotel in Thailand. 

However, reports say that Gotabaya Rajapaksa only has a visa permit for 90 days in Thailand. He and his wife Loma Rajapaksa are staying at a hotel and reportedly the costs are increasing. Reports say that already hundreds of million rupees have been spent on his stay and round-the-clock security among other things and the family wishes to return to Sri Lanka. 

Some reports say that Rajapaksa may return as soon as August 24 if all the security arrangement is in place. While other reports say intelligence agencies in the island nation have advised delaying his arrival. 

On the other hand, Sri Lanka's human rights body urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to provide adequate protection for the Rajapaksa family to facilitate his safe return and stay. 

"The complaint is based on the premise that the ex-President and family cannot return to the country due to the prevailing threats they face and that it violates fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution to every citizen," the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) said. 

The opposition, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), is also waiting for Gotabaya Rajapaksa's return as they have voiced that he must be tried for allegedly misusing the $1 billion credit facility extended by India. 

2. Student activists detained: Colombo detained three student activists - Wasantha Mudalige, Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake and Galwewa Siridhamma Thera - last week following a protest in the capital. The activists have been detained under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Their detention has led the US, Canada, the EU, and other countries to voice their apprehension. 

Following the pressure, minister Bandula Gunawardena told the media that the Justice Minister has informed the cabinet that a new National Security Act needs to be adopted. 

International rights organisation, Amnesty said: "The PTA allows for detention of suspects for up to a year without charge, which is in violation of international law."

The PTA allows for detention of suspects for up to a year without charge, which is in violation of international law.
- Amnesty International

3. IMF to visit: Sri Lanka is desperately seeking a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund. An IMF team is also visiting Sri Lanka from August 24 to August 31 to assess the country's debt repayment abilities. The team needs assurances from Sri Lanka's creditors on its debt sustainability. 

In accordance, reports say Sri Lanka will ask Japan to invite India and China for bilateral talks on restructuring the island nation's debt. 

4. Hambantota: The controversial docking of a Chinese research vessel at Hambantota port in Sri Lanka had irked India. Sri Lanka had also delayed its docking over India's security concerns.

However, the Hambantota port is leased out to China for 99 years since 2017 after Colombo failed to pay its debts. China also happens to be one of the main creditors to Sri Lanka and the island nation needs its assistance in seeking the early bailout package from the IMF. The vessel left on August 22.  

5. Life in Colombo: An anonymous resident of Colombo wrote about what's happening on the ground in an article for the Outlook. The resident said, "Life is not perfect in Sri Lanka, but it is definitely better than it was when the 'Go Gota Go' protests began in April."

Life is not perfect in Sri Lanka, but it is definitely better than it was when the 'Go Gota Go' protests began in April.
- Colombo resident

The crazy queues for fuel have reportedly ended at least in parts in Colombo with the success of the QR code initiative. There are more vehicles on the road than before. Weddings and other functions have started taking place, a sign of things returning to some form of normalcy.

Last updated: August 24, 2022 | 10:41
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